Community Wind Projects
A Comparative Analysis of Business Structures Suitable for Farmer-Owned Wind Power Projects in the United States (November 2004) was prepared for the Wind & Hydropower Technologies Program, U.S. Department of Energy, by Mark Bolinger and Ryan Wise.
For years, farmers in the United States have looked with envy on their European counterparts' ability to profitably farm the wind through ownership of distributed, utility-scale wind projects. Only within the past few years, however, has farmer- or community-owned wind power development become a reality in the United States. The primary hurdle to this type of development in the United States has been devising and implementing suitable business and legal structures that enable such projects to take advantage of tax-based federal incentives for wind power. This article discusses the limitations of such incentives in supporting farmer- or community-owned wind projects, describes four ownership structures that potentially overcome such limitations, and finally conducts comparative financial analysis on those four structures, using as an example a hypothetical 1.5 MW farmer-owned project located in the state of Oregon.
Wind Energy in Higher Education
Case Study: Carleton College Northfield, Minnesota
CARLETON COLLEGE has a 350-foot tall mascot that is setting a new trend among universities by providing both revenue for the school and clean energy for the community. In September 2004, Carleton College dedicated the first college or university owned commercial-scale wind turbine in the nation to complement the college’s environmental statement, which aims to “be a model of environmental stewardship by incorporating ideals of sustainability into the operations of the college and the daily life of individuals.”
The 1.65 megawatt (MW) turbine is located about a mile and a half east of Carleton’s Northfield, Minnesota campus and has become “a popular destination for runners and bikers,” according to Carleton student Dave Holman. “Students love it, the community loves it, and alumni double love it…because it makes sound economic, PR, and ecological sense.”
A bit of friendly rivalry is common among schools, and other nearby universities are getting in on the action as well. Already, the University of Minnesota at Morris has installed a 1.65 MW wind turbine, and St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN is anticipating commissioning a 1.65 MW turbine in July 2006. Holman encourages the rivalry “because when we compete to do good things for society, everybody wins…and tell Olaf that Carleton’s currently winning,” he jokes.
Carleton College is a “local pioneer,” according to Bruce Anderson of RENew Northfield, demonstrating the economic and performance viability of wind development in the community. As the Project Manager f Facilities Planning and Management, Rob Lmppa says that this has been a “great learning experience.” And he is not alone. Already, Lamppa has given 50-60 tours of the turbine to school groups, individuals, and other bus loads of interested groups.
Integrating Wind in the Classroom
Many school wind projects are partially motivated by the educational opportunities in math, science, business, policy, and environmental studies, which are preparing their students with skills in a fast-growing industry. At Carleton, a variety of departments have been involved in various stages of the turbine project, such as, blade design, wind mapping for site assessment, and data conversion. For example, each month, the Carleton College Physics Department posts the wind production data in their building to keep tabs on the turbine electrical generation and revenue stream, over $384,000 to date.
Laying the Groundwork for University Wind Energy
Carleton’s installation of a 1.65 Vestas turbine was the culmination of approximately two years of planning and project development as well as an integral part of larger plans for greater Carleton campus sustainability and active renewable energy planning in the Northfield community.
During the summer of 2002, local citizens group RENew Northfield helped to convene a Northfield community wind energy task force that included the City of Northfield, the Northfield School District, Carleton College, and St. Olaf College. The task force identified a windy site on a farm about 1.5 miles east of Carleton’s campus. The college’s Board of Trustees officially approved the project in February 2004 and the project proceeded on schedule, commissioning and dedicating its turbine in September 2004.
Now that the local community has lived with the turbine for nearly a year and a half, Anderson says that there is generally “broad and strong support for the Carleton wind turbine.” A number of people have called his office at RENew Northfield just to say that they are thankful that the Carleton turbine is in their community. Anderson adds, “many view this project as a symbol of progress and pride in the community.”
Wind Economics and Policy
Electricity from the wind turbine is being sold to Xcel Energy for local use in the Northfield area. Xcel is paying 3.3 cents per kWh through a fixed 20 year contract, under the terms of Xcel’s standard small wind tariff (available for wind projects under 2 MW in Minnesota).
In addition to selling electricity to Xcel, Carleton is receiving 1.5 cents per kWh generated from the State of Minnesota via the Minnesota Renewable Energy Payment Incentive (MN REPI) program. The $1.8 million project at Carleton also was aided by a $150,000 “Community Wind Rebate” from the state of Minnesota. The rest of the capital expenditure was provided from Carleton directly.
The college expects to recoup its investment with interest within 10 to 12 years. After two semesters of independent study on the economics of the turbine, Holman suggests that “Carleton should invest in a wind farm as part of its endowment because it is an incredibly good investment. Wind for Carleton has the risk level of a bond, but returns like a stock with 8-12% per year. In addition to a yearly revenue stream of about $250,000, the PR value of the turbine has been immeasurable.”
By generating wind power, the college offsets about 40% of its electricity use, significantly reducing harmful emissions of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and mercury. Over the life of the turbine, the college will avoid producing 1.5 million tons of carbon dioxide, which is important to students at Carleton who view the turbine as “a very strong piece of their school’s identity,” according to one student.
Paving the Way - St. Olaf and Others Follow Suit
Carleton might find itself to be a trendsetter if other colleges and universities in the Midwest continue to follow through on their own plans to install wind turbines. St. Olaf College, the University of Minnesota at Morris, as well as some k-12 schools are catching on to the benefits of installing a wind turbine. St. Olaf College, located just across town in Northfield, received a $1.5 million grant from Xcel Energy’s Renewable Development fund to install a turbine of their own to match Carleton’s machine. Commissioning is scheduled for July 2006. St. Olaf intends to use the energy directly for its campus rather than sell it to the grid, and expects to supply approximately 30% of the campus electricity demand with wind each year.
St. Olaf also has plans to incorporate the turbine into curriculum with “a really cool set of courses called Campus Ecology I and II in our environmental studies program,” according to Pete Sandberg, Assistant Vice President for Facilities at St. Olaf. The turbine will also likely be integrated into an interim course looking at sustainable and renewable materials, in addition to, energy. “I think the educational uses will multiply pretty quickly beyond anything we can imagine right now,” says Sandberg.
When asked if the college is pleased with the turbine experience thus far, Sandberg echoed the comments of many who have worked in wind project development: “It has been very challenging!”
The community around St. Olaf has been generally supportive of the project. According to Pete Sandberg, Assistant Vice president for Facilities at St. Olaf, “we've had only positive feed back – no opposition, in fact, at the public hearing for the county conditional use permit, a Northfield realtor spoke, and said he believed that the value of properties with a view of the other turbine in Northfield were enhanced!”
Why is a wind turbine such a good fit for schools and universities? “We generated most of our electricity for most of our history,” says Sandberg about the college as its own utility. “We see it as just another way we contribute to keeping the place going as efficiently as possible.”
In the first quarter of 2006, St. Olaf College signed a turbine purchase contract with Vestas, and has installed the footings, transformer, and wiring in the new electrical equipment control room. Construction is scheduled for completion in July 2006. All of the work to date has been paid from college capital funds allocated to the project, which includes the first installment payment of $400,000 to Vestas.
To the northwest, the University of Minnesota at Morris broke ground for its own Vestas 1.65 MW turbine in November 2004, and began producing electricity for the campus in March 2005. Installed at the University’s West Central Research and Outreach Center, the turbine is the first commercial-scale wind energy project at a public university. The turbine supplies the campus with 5.6 million kWh per year, which is more than half of its electricity needs. Many colleges and universities around the U.S. that don’t have wind resources enough for their energy needs are purchasing green power to support renewables on campus. View a list of universities purchasing green power on the Green Power Network.
As has been demonstrated by multiple successful k-12 school projects in Minnesota and Iowa, wind turbines can be a great fit for educational institutions because they provide a clean energy, a new source of revenue and educational opportunities for students. Also schools sometimes have the option of using a wind turbine to directly offset their energy use, which can be a significant economic advantage.
As more and more schools across the nation “go green” in a variety of ways, the Midwest is leading the way for wind.
Community Wind website - wind in schools
Carleton College - history of the wind turbine RENew Northfield
Clean Energy Resources Teams Case Study
St. Olaf's turbine
Community Wind Conference Wrap Up
Thank you to everyone who participated at the second national Community Wind Energy Conference in March 2006 in Des Moines, Iowa. Over 500 people from 32 states and 3 countries joined the discussion to advance community wind energy development.
The conference proceedings are now available online.
Windustry is growing!
Windustry brought 3 new staff members on board in the past year to continue expanding the scope and depth of our work. Brian Antonich was an intern with Windustry for two summers before joining full-time as Small Wind Program Analyst. Brian received his Masters Degree in 2005 from the University of Washington in Electrical Engineering, focusing on wind energy systems. Cole McVey moved from North Carolina in October 2005, where she worked with the Appalachian State University Energy Center and Small Wind Initiative, to Minnesota to work as Program Associate with Windustry. Dave Tidball joined Windustry in June of 2005 to help expand the number and range of projects with administrative support. Lisa Daniels and Sarah Johnson remain fixtures on the Windustry team.
About the Windustry team
Join Windustry today. Help us continue to increase wind energy opportunities for rural landowners and communities and provide sound information and technical support. Becoming a member of Windustry builds a strong base of advocacy for public policy that supports community wind. As a non-profit organization, Windustry depends on the support of foundations, government contracts, and people who use our information and services. If you appreciate our work and would like to support our development, become a member of Windustry today!
Windustry’s Networks Expand
With our growing team of staff and support, Windustry has been able to expand our programs as well:
Home and Farm Windustry
WINDUSTRY HAS ADDED a home and farm-scale wind energy program to our menu of resource offerings. Also known as small wind, this program will focus on technical and policy issues for turbines under 100kW in size. Contact Brian Antonich at 612/870-3465, or visit: www.windustry.org/smallwind
Community Wind Listserv
When we talk about community wind, we are generally describing commercial-scale wind turbines and projects that feature local ownership and participation and are generally larger than 100 kW. To join this active wind discussion group to keep posted on today's most current news and issues surrounding community wind development!
Women of Wind Energy (WOWE) a group of individuals who support and encourage the participation of professional women in the wind energy industry by providing networking opportunities and student sponsorships. WOWE, formed in 2005 and housed at Windustry, has an online listserv and website.
We also maintain our Wind Farmers Network, an online forum for farmers, landowners, and others to ask questions, discuss current issues, and share experiences with wind energy development. Windustry launched the Wind Farmers Network in 2004, and now has over 1,100 members joined in the dialogue. If you would like to join the Wind Farmers Network, visit www.windfarmersnetwork.org, or call Windustry at (612)870-3461 with questions.
Visit Windustry at the Minnesota State Fair
AUGUST 24 – SEPTEMBER 4, 2006.
Windustry will host hands-on and interactive exhibits in the new EcoExperience Building on the State Fair Grounds.
MN State Fair
Wind Energy News
Windustry staff joined 5,000 other members of the wind industry in the annual American Wind Energy Association conference. At this year's event, June 5-7 in Pittsburgh, PA, Windustry participated hosted the Community Wind Update Meeting, Women of Wind Energy Networking Luncheon, and participated in the Small Wind Stakeholders Meeting and the Wind Powering America All States Summit. It was a marathon week for Windustry in PA, but we look forward to seeing you all again next year!
AWEA 2006 Conference website
Clean Renewable Energy Bonds
Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (CREBs) are a new financing tool released by the United States Treasury, to provide an incentive for publicly-owned renewable energy projects that do not qualify for federal Production Tax Credits (PTCs). The $800 million available between January 1, 2006 and December 31, 2007 is for any governmental entity (including tribal governments) or electric cooperative company that applied by the April 26th, 2006 deadline. Stay tuned to hear how CREBs turn out for public wind energy projects. More information on CREBs at the Environmental Law and Policy Center Site.
Click on the link below for a pdf version.
Native Americans Breaking Trail for Green Power
“An overnight success that took eight years” is a description often applied to the first Native American owned utility-scale wind turbine by people involved in the project. Officially dedicated in May, the 170 ft 750 kW NEG Micon turbine now stands on a hill above the Rosebud Hotel and Casino in south central South Dakota on the Rosebud Sioux reservation. Patrick Spears (left), Robert Gough (right), Rosebud wind turbine (middle). Photo courtesy of Intertribal COUP.
Wind energy has long been an attractive possibility for tribal communities partly due to simple geography– tribal lands in North Dakota, South Dakota and other Great Plains states happen to include some of the best wind resource areas in the world. However, motivations for pursuing a wind project were much more complex for the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. Concerns about how electricity generation affects the health of the air, land, water and people, the growing threat of global climate change, and a deep-seated interest in expanding economic opportunities for community members played major roles. And this project is only the beginning. The Rosebud tribe purposefully experimented with models and the planning process for this project with the intention of gaining enough knowledge and experience to make future wind projects, bigger, more efficient and more profitable.
The suggestion that this project was almost deliberately made into a long, challenging process is not hard to believe considering that the original groundwork was laid as far back as 1994, the year the Rosebud Sioux established a Tribal Utility Commission (TUC) to expand their capacity to manage energy issues. At that time the most pressing issue was obtaining an allocation for hydropower electricity from the Western Area Power Administration. (WAPA is a power marketing administration within the U.S. Department of Energy charged with selling and transmitting electricity from federal hydroelectric power plants.). Part of the TUC’s job was to develop an integrated resource plan, which required studying all possible energy sources, both renewable and traditional. This lead to the installation of the first wind-monitoring tower to measure what the tribe already suspected was a promising wind resource. Rosebud turbine under construction. Photo Courtesy of Intertribal COUP.
As many Missouri River basin tribes were facing similar energy issues at that time, a coalition of northern Great Plains tribes chartered the Intertribal Council on Utility Policy (Intertribal COUP) to create a common forum for utility policy discussions. Over the next few years, Intertribal COUP focused on WAPA allocations, but also started exploring ways to integrate their own energy resources. Intertribal COUP and the Rosebud TUC began to grow their knowledge base by organizing and hosting a series of meetings and conferences to explore the feasibility of wind power and building connections with groups from other states with more wind experience.
During the process of learning about wind energy possibilities, the Rosebud TUC became a champion of bringing these opportunities home to the Rosebud reservation. Many members of the commission became tireless advocates for both the economic and environmental benefits of wind power. Particularly remembered are the contributions of the late Alex “Little Soldier” Lunderman, the first president of the utility commission for whom the turbine was named at the May dedication. Ronald Neiss, another former utility commission president, told Wind Powering America last year about Lunderman’s vision that continues to guide the commission today: “He believed we could use modern technology as well as our resources in a way that is compatible with our history, our philosophy, and our cultural and spiritual values. With the Rosebud Wind Project, we are trying to make his vision a reality by using the tremendous wind resource on the reservation in a good way.”
This first turbine is a demonstration project that's breaking trail for future, bigger projects.The current TUC President, Rod Bordeaux, sees the growing potential for tribal wind power as a positive direction for Great Plains Tribes, “ Energy has a steep learning curve, but people are beginning to understand where this is going. ”
By the late 1990s, it was clear that the Rosebud Sioux had an excellent wind resource, and an interest in using a clean, renewable, native natural resource to generate power. However, the question of how to finance a large wind energy venture remained. Part of that question was answered in 1999, when Rosebud was the only tribe to receive funding ($508,000, half the cost of the turbine) for a utility scale wind turbine in the Department of Energy’s first round of Tribal Renewable Energy Grants. Soon after receiving the DOE award, the tribe began negotiations with the Rural Utilities Service to borrow money for the rest of the project, which, at the time, had never worked with either tribes or renewable energy. (RUS is a branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture that makes loans to rural utility service providers.) The effort paid off in 2002 when the Rosebud tribe secured a loan for the second half of the turbine installation costs and a little extra to set up some new wind monitoring stations.
While working on the financing, the TUC also began to tackle other hurdles such as obtaining permission to interconnect the turbine to the power grid and finding a market for the electricity. They used this process explore many markets that could also be viable for future, larger wind projects. Students and teachers gathered at the turbine dedication. Photo courtesy Clean Air- Cool Planet.Among the considerations: working with the owners of the transmission and distribution lines, plugging into the federal market for renewable energy, and the possibility of selling wind energy as premium green electricity.
The result of the extensive negotiations is a multi-faceted arrangement for selling and transmitting the wind turbine’s electricity (see chart). A long-term deal was made to provide electricity directly to the Rosebud Casino, but the contract allows the tribe flexibility to explore other options. For example, for the first few years (up to 5) Rosebud is providing "green power" to Ellsworth Air Force Base near Rapid City, SD by coordinating with Basin Electric Power Cooperative, WAPA, and Nebraska Public Power. The tribe is also working with NativeEnergy, a Vermont based company that agreed to buy the remaining lifetime output of green tags from the project. Consumer demand for cleaner electricity has driven the development of a market for the environmental attributes of wind-generated electricity (referred to as green tags) and NativeEnergy has tapped this market by selling green tags from the Rosebud turbine to thousands of individuals and environmentally minded companies such as Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, a Rolling Stones climate change concert and a recent Dave Matthews Band tour. A consumer buying green tags can think of it as way to offset pollution and greenhouse gas emissions associated with their own electricity use. 2003FallNews_chart.gif (62357 bytes)
Gough described this first wind turbine as a learning tool, that is “breaking trail” for more and bigger tribal wind energy projects. While recognizing the pioneering efforts of other Great Plains tribes in smaller scale wind power (such as Spirit Lake and Turtle Mountain in North Dakota, the Upper Sioux and White Earth Chippewa, and the Blackfeet in Montana), Patrick Spears, President of Intertribal COUP, said, “Rosebud has taken the lead among tribal nations of the northern plains in realizing the potential of large scale wind energy development. And this turbine is only step one, the next phase of Rosebud’s plan is a 30-50 MW project.”
Rosebud and Intertribal COUP have also joined in developing a road map for an 80 MW project to be distributed in clusters across eight Great Plains reservations. “This project would provide a way for a number of tribes to share the risks and benefits involved of a large wind project to capture the economies of scale necessary to be economically feasible and secure each reservation a place on the WAPA grid as a clean energy generator. Ten megawatts on each reservation would likely be absorbed on the local distribution system, and have little impact on an otherwise constrained transmission grid” noted Gough. To date, four Intertribal COUP tribes have begun the necessary planning and data collection to participate in this effort.
The incentive for Great Plains tribes to pursue wind power goes beyond the great promise of economic development. Wind is an opportunity for tribes to control their own energy resources and the impact of their energy use. Reservations are seen as permanent homelands for tribal communities, and the residents realize that depleting the natural resources is incompatible with that idea. “The Lakota people have always had great respect for the power of the wind,” said Spears, and now they can use that power to produce clean energy and economic development.
MORE INFORMATION Rosebud Wind Project
* NativeEnergy Photos
* First Rosebud Wind Turbine Generates Support: An Interview with Intertribal COUP Secretary Robert Gough- Cultural Survival Quarterly, Fall 2003
* Wind Powering America: Rosebud 750-kW Wind Turbine Installed
* Tribes Find Power in Wind, by Winona LaDuke, YES!, Summer 2003 * Wind Powering America: Wind Stakeholder Interview- Rosebud Reservation
* Rosebud Casino and Hotel
Green Power Markets
* Windustry: Wind Energy Markets
* NativeEnergy- national marketer of renewable energy credits or green tags.
* Green Power Network - Clearinghouse for information on the electric power industry's green power efforts.
Resources for Tribal Wind Energy Projects
* U.S. Department of Energy Tribal Energy Program
* Wind Powering America: Native American Anemometer Loan Program
* Wind Powering America: Case Studies on Native Americans Using Wind Power
* Western Area Power Administration
* U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Utilities Service
* Basin Electric Power Cooperative
* National Renewable Energy Laboratory: South Dakota Wind Map
WIND ENERGY News
USDA Grants announced
The first round of grant awards for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Renewable Energy Systems and Energy Efficiency Improvements Program was announced August 25, 2003. Over $21 million was awarded for 131 projects in 24 states. Minnesota lead all states with $4,678,632, followed by New York, Illinois, and Ohio. Many grants will support wind projects, including small residential-scale turbines, farmer-owned utility-scale turbines, and rural electric cooperative wind projects. For more information: www.windustry.org/resources/farmbill.htm.
Large farmer project wins bid
In August, Great River Energy announced that it will begin contract negotiations for 100 MW of wind power with Trimont Area Wind Farm, LLC. Trimont Wind is a coalition of local citizens from the project area (south central Minnesota) that answered Great River Energy’s request for proposals to develop a renewable energy supply resource to be ready by 2005. It will be the largest locally owned wind project in the nation. According to GRE, the project was chosen for its competitive price, its access to transmission line interconnections, its location within the coop’s service territory, and its appeal as a locally owned project.
MN Community Wind Rebate
The Minnesota Department of Commerce Energy Office announced a new Community Wind Rebate program available to non-taxable entities (such as schools, non-profit organizations, or government units) in Minnesota outside of the southwest portion of the state. Projects can receive rebates of up to $150,000 by applying before the November 13, 2003 deadline. For more information, visit www.windustry.org or contact Mike Taylor at 651-296-6830 or email@example.com
The Windustry WindProject Calculator has been updated with new turbines and improved with a more user-friendly format. It is available at www.windustry.org/calculator.
The Windustry staff expanded to include Wes Slaymaker who is taking on the role of Windustry Project Engineer. He is a certified professional engineer with more than three years experience developing wind energy projects in the Midwest. He brings a new level of practical and technical expertise to Windustry. Welcome Wes!
WIND ENERGY Workshops/Events
November 11 - 13, 2003 – AWEA Wind Financing Workshop, Palm Springs, CA. Contact the American Wind Energy Association at (202) 383-2500 or visit www.awea.org/seminars.html.
November 14, 2003 – Minnesota's Renewable Energy Research: Status and Opportunities, Brooklyn Center, MN. Presented by Energy Alley. Contact Erik Pratt at 612-334-3388, ext. 102, or visit www.mn-ei.org/ea/research03.html.
Windustry is a non-profit organization that builds collaborations and provides technical support to create an understanding of wind energy opportunities for economic development. We are partnered with the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.
WIND FARMERS Network
The Wind Farmers Network is now in development for landowners, communities and others interested in investing in wind energy to exchange information and experiences. Visit www.windustry.org/farmer or contact Windustry for more information or to join the network.
Click on the link below for a pdf version.
Reading, Writing, Wind Energy & Arithmetic Construction of the Eldora-New Providence wind turbine
Case Study: Eldora, Iowa
From his office in the small central Iowa town of Eldora, Eldora-New Providence Community School District Superintendent Bill Grove can see the money his district is saving in energy costs every day by tracking the performance of the wind turbine standing on the grounds of the high school.
The 750 kW NEG Micon turbine was installed last fall after years of talks, negotiations, setbacks and planning with the school board and the local utility. The idea of the Eldora-New Providence school district producing its own electricity from wind power was conceived in the mid-1990s when school officials were brainstorming ways to save money. The first step was a meeting with the local utility, IES Utilities, Inc. (now part of the Madison, WI based Alliant Energy), that turned out to be crucial to the ultimate success of the project. “The utility vice president’s jaw hit the floor when he realized that we weren’t making any demands, just asking if we could all work together. They’re not used to being approached like that and it really set a positive tone that served us all well in the end,” said Grove.
The original plan for the project called for installing a 250 kW turbine at the high school, which would have closely matched the electricity needs of that building, the district’s largest electricity user. However, the first interconnection agreement offered by Alliant would not have produced a positive revenue stream for the school district, creating the first of many hurdles for the project. Eventually, by going through the Iowa Utilities Board, the district secured an arrangement where the wind turbine’s electricity would offset the high school’s electricity use, extra energy would be sold to Alliant at the avoided cost rate, and any additional energy needed by the high school would be purchased from the utility at retail rate.
With the legal issues settled, Grove and the school board hoped to move forward quickly with constructing the wind turbine. They hired wind energy consultant Tom Wind to do a feasibility study and recommend the best site for the turbine. However, the project’s second major obstacle appeared when the district did not receive a single bid for installing a 250 kW machine. They discovered that most wind turbine manufacturers were moving toward larger, more profitable machines and were phasing out the 250 kW turbines.
With all the plans revolving around buying a 250 kW turbine, the project easily could have fallen apart with this setback. However, the spirit of cooperation established in that very first meeting with the utility reemerged to save the project. Alliant offered to allow the Eldora-New Providence schools to use the electricity generated by a larger turbine to offset all of the district’s electricity use, rather than just the high school’s consumption. Grove was careful to point out that the utility might not offer this particular arrangement to everyone, but that the benefits of working cooperatively with the utility for this project could be a lesson for other schools.
With this new agreement, Tom Wind performed a new feasibility study for a 750 kW wind turbine. The numbers still looked favorable for the revised plan, thus in late 2001, the school district tried again to request bids, this time for the larger turbine. The second try proved more fruitful than the first and by March 2002 the district contracted with NEG Micon and had a turbine installed on October 21, 2002.
Grove expects the new turbine to generate enough electricity to offset the entire school district’s electricity bill and sell some power back to the utility. The energy savings and the extra revenue from selling electricity should be more than enough to cover the $97,729 annual loan payment. When the loan is paid off in ten years, all the savings and revenue will simply be extra money for the Eldora-New Providence schools. So far, the turbine is meeting and even exceeding these expectations.
Eldora wind turbine economics
The school district borrowed a total of $800,000 to finance the project– including the cost of the turbine, consultant and attorney fees, interconnection fees, and an extended 5-year warranty– and expects to pay off the loans in ten years. Part of the financing came through a $250,000 no interest loan from the Iowa Energy Bank, an energy management program run by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Energy Bureau. The remaining $550,000 was borrowed from the local Hardin County Savings Bank of Eldora at 5.5 percent interest. A slightly lower rate was available from a Des Moines bank, but the school board felt it was important to support the local business. Combined with the no interest loan, the average annual interest is only 2.1 percent. For the first 5 years, the district will also pay $8,000 for a maintenance contract with NEG Micon, but Grove hopes the district will have its own maintenance crew trained by the end of that time. This low-interest financing package combined with the area’s decent, but not outstanding wind resource made this project economically viable.
Today, the 160 foot tall turbine stands in a field just behind the high school where students and teachers see it every day. The physics class tracks the electricity production and uses the data for projects and to illustrate many ideas and concepts. “We’ve gotten just what we wanted,” said Grove, citing the school’s new role as an innovator in both education and environmental protection. And perhaps even more importantly, he said, “We have an inflation-proof investment for the next 25 years.”
Eldora-New Providence School District is the latest of half a dozen school districts in Iowa to invest in wind energy. Many more schools in Iowa, Minnesota and around the Midwest are exploring using wind power to reduce their energy costs. Grove alone has received more than a dozen inquiries about from other school districts. The Spirit Lake School District in northern Iowa was the pioneer for this kind of project, installing the first of its two wind turbines in 1992. For more information about wind energy and schools or other community-based wind projects, visit www.windustry.org/community.
Turbine Performance Data
The Eldora-New Providence School District is now posting its wind turbine performance data online:
Wind Energy News
$23 million available for renewable energy and energy efficiency
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued a Notice of Funds Availability (NOFA) in April inviting applications for the Renewable Energy Systems and Energy Efficiency Improvements Grant Program, created in the 2002 farm bill. The program offers grants for renewable energy systems (including wind turbines) to agricultural producers and rural small businesses. The grants can be used to pay up to 25 percent of the cost of an eligible project. Next year the program will be expanded to include loans and loan guarantees if it does not fall victim to budget cuts. More information is available at www.windustry.org/resources/farmbill.htm or by calling your state’s USDA Rural Development Office. The deadline for applications is June 27, 2003.
Minnesota PUC approves Buffalo Ridge area power line
The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission significantly advanced wind power in Minnesota by ordering Xcel Energy to proceed with building a new set of power lines and power line upgrades designed to bring wind power from southwestern Minnesota to the Twin Cities. In the March 11th Order, the PUC requires that the timeline for building the power lines match Xcel’s timeline for building wind turbines in the area, ensuring that the power line will be used to carry wind-generated electricity. Another condition requires Xcel to purchase up to 60 MW of wind owned by local farmers, communities and small businesses.
New Midwestern wind projects
Iowa: Iowa’s largest utility, Mid-American Energy, announced plans to build a 310 MW wind project in the state, which would be the largest land-based wind farm in the world.
North Dakota: Fergus Falls, Minnesota-based Otter Tail Power announced plans to purchase 21 MW of wind power capacity from a project to be owned by FPL Energy and built near Kulm, North Dakota by the end of 2003.
South Dakota : The first Native-American owned utility-scale wind turbine was installed on the Rosebud-Sioux reservation in South Dakota February 27, 2003.
November Conference Proceedings Now Available
Audio recordings, presentation visuals and links to additional information are available for nearly all of the 90 presentations made at Wind Energy: New Economic Opportunities conference in November: www.windustry.org/conference/proceedings.
Wind Energy Workshops/Events
May 18-21, 2003, Austin, Texas: WINDPOWER. The American Wind Energy Association's annual conference. Visit www.awea.org or call 202-383-2500.
June 20-22, 2003 – Renewable Energy and Sustainable Living Fair, Custer, Wisconsin. For more information, visit www.the-mrea.org or contact the Midwest Renewable Energy Association at (715) 592-6595 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Windustry builds collaborations and provides technical support to create an understanding of wind energy opportunities for economic development. Windustry recently incorporated as its own 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, but remains partnered with the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, another non-profit that promotes resilient family farms, rural communities and ecosystems around the world through research and education, science and technology, and advocacy.
Wind Farmers Network
The Wind Farmers Network now has financial support for development in Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Watch www.windustry.org for more information in the coming months. The purpose of this initiative is to bring together a broad range of landowners, farmers and ranchers to exchange their experiences in wind development and educate others who would like to begin farming the wind. If you would like to join the network, please send your contact information and a brief sentence describing your wind energy interests to Windustry or join online at www.windustry.org/about/join.htm. Your information only may be shared within the network.
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Minwind I & II: Innovative farmer-owned wind projects
In 2000, a group of farmers in Luverne, Minnesota began to hatch a plan to build farmer-owned wind turbines in Rock County. Their goal was to find an investment that would generate new income for farmers and have economic benefits for the local community. The rapid growth of the wind industry around the country and the great success of wind farming on the nearby Buffalo Ridge made developing wind energy a natural choice. “We wanted a farmer-owned project that would bring economic development, get farmers a return on their investment, and could use local businesses and contractors to do the work,” said Mark Willers, a project leader and farmer from Beaver Creek, Minnesota.
“We are trying to get farmer ownership of wind projects to the forefront and it has been a challenge, but with dedicated people like Mark Willers and Tom Arends we’re making great strides.” –Dave Kolsrud, Corn-er Stone Farmers Cooperative.
To develop their idea of farmer-owned commercial wind turbines, the group did extensive research and settled on forming two limited liability companies (LLCs), Minwind I and Minwind II. This format was the best option because it maximized the companies’ ability to use tax credits and other incentives for wind energy while maintaining some principles of cooperatives such as voluntary and open membership, democratic member control and concern for the greater community.
Sixty-six investors from the region eagerly snapped up all the available shares in both companies in only 12 days. All of the members are from Minnesota and are also investors in Luverne’s ethanol plant (Corn-er Stone Farmers Cooperative), although that was not a requirement for membership. The two companies are carefully structured to give farmers the best return on their investment in the most democratic way possible. Eighty-five percent of the shares must be owned by farmers, leaving the rest available for local townspeople and non-farmers who could someday inherit shares. Each share gives the owner one vote in the company and no single person can own more than 15 percent of the shares.
Two companies were formed to take advantage of a Minnesota renewable production incentive that provides 1.5¢ per kilowatt-hour payment for wind projects up to two MW for the first ten years of production. Although they coordinate closely, they are governed by separate boards of directors, have different groups of investors and maintain separate financial books. Willers serves as president of Minwind I and Tom Arends, another local farmer based in Luverne, is president of Minwind II. Both groups have also relied heavily on expertise from consultants to develop the actual wind project negotiate the power purchase agreement, and a team of lawyers to determine the business structure.
After the shares were sold, the companies had enough capital to begin developing two nearly identical 1.9 MW wind projects. Construction is underway on both Minwind projects, the foundations were poured in mid-July and the turbines will be fully installed by the end of October. Each project consists of two Micon 950 kW turbines and all four turbines will be located on the same farm seven miles southwest of Luverne. The site was chosen because the group wanted to use land owned by one of the project’s investors, and this particular farm had the best combination of wind resource and access to transmission lines.
According to Willers, the most difficult step in these projects was not finding capital for the hardware, consultants and legal fees because farmers were enthusiastic about investing from the very beginning. He believes that it is a myth that farmers do not have the money to finance projects on this scale (Minwind I and II will cost about $1.6 million dollars each and will be paid off in ten years). The biggest obstacle, rather, was negotiating a power purchase agreement, a crucial step to moving any wind project forward. The group not only had to find a power company that believed they were serious about building these wind turbines, but one that was willing to buy the power they would generate. Discussions with the local rural electric cooperative were fruitless due to many issues including interconnection requirements, cost, and a long-term exclusive agreement with another power supplier. Eventually, after months of negotiation, they entered a 15-year contract with Alliant Energy, which will use the power to help satisfy renewable energy standards in Iowa or Wisconsin. As with any power generation project, establishing a market for the power and negotiating a contract was crucial to allowing these two projects to move forward.
Minwind I and Minwind II are as much about economics and promoting farmer-owned enterprises as they are about developing wind energy. The companies are consciously using local materials and contractors for everything possible, including purchasing concrete from a local business and contracting with a Lake Benton, Minnesota company to service the machines. Thus, according to Willers, the whole region will see economic development, while farmers get a real return on their investment.
According to Dave Kolsrud, manager of Corn-er Stone Farmers Coop, there is great potential for this project to lead to many more farmer-owned wind enterprises. “Wind energy is changing the landscape of rural America and we’re trying to make farmer ownership of wind energy become significant enough for wind to be considered another crop,” he said. And, according to Tom Arends, “wind turbines are one of the best cash crops to come along for farmers looking for new sources of income.”
After the current two 1.9 MW projects are installed, Willers says that there is so much interest from area farmers and other potential investors that they have already begun researching more potential sites and the possibility of doing much larger projects. Willers hopes expansion will allow many more farmers to participate in this innovative model for wind development. “This model is a way for farmers to take advantage of economies of scale in developing wind, just like the big companies do,” said Willers.
Willers, Arends, and many others have invested countless hours in developing the Minwind projects, but they believe their efforts have been worthwhile. “We’ve spent an incredible amount of time on this, but we needed to do it for our community and our friends who are farmers,” said Willers.
To learn more about Minwind I and II and other innovative wind projects, attend Wind Energy: New Economic Opportunities on November 21-22, 2002 in Minneapolis. Visit www.windustry.org/conference or call 612-870-3461 to receive a brochure and registration form.
Update (December 2004):
Minwind Energy recently dedicated Minwind III-IX, seven new 1.65 MW wind turbines. Admiring the new turbines at Minwind's December 3, 2004 Open HouseThese turbines are owned by approximately 200 local investors, following the same principles as the original Minwind I and II projects. For more information, please visit the community wind section of our website or visit the Wind Farmers Network to view a photo album from the December 3, 2004 Minwind Open House.
Something for everybody at Wind Conference
Wind Energy: New Economic Opportunities
Windustry, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, and a diverse steering committee are organizing a large wind energy conference to be held November 21-22, 2002 at the Minneapolis Convention Center. The conference will have four tracks: Utility projects large and small, green pricing and credit trading will be addressed in Advancing Minnesota’s Renewable Energy Objective. An overview of wind energy and a discussion on building a wind industry in the Midwest will be part of the Economic Development track. Many aspects of distributed wind generation will be highlighted in Community-based Wind, such as what makes a good wind site, financing wind projects and how to build community support. The practical ‘how to’s of wind projects will be covered in the Citizen and Landowner Workshops.
The conference is intended for a wide audience of rural landowners, interested citizens, tribes, utilities, developers, regulators, elected officials, economic development professionals, state agencies and advocates. The full program for the conference was recently published and is available by contacting Windustry or visiting our website. Anyone with an interest in wind energy and economic development is welcome and encouraged to attend.
November 14, 2002 -- Wind Symposium on Small Scale Systems, Cleveland, Wisconsin. A one day event for rural homeowners, farmers, and small businesses at Lakeshore Technical College. Contact: Ron Fromm, Focus on Energy, 800-598-4376
November 18-19, 2002 -- Ohio Wind Power Conference and Trade Show, Dublin, Ohio. A forum to explore primarily small wind systems Contact Green Energy Ohio at 1-866-GREENOH, or visit www.greenenergyohio.org.
February 10-11, 2003 –- Harvesting Clean Energy Conference III, Boise, ID. A conference for rural landowners, tribes, rural electric utility representatives, rural economic development leaders, elected officials, and local, state and Federal Agencies. Contact Diane Gasaway at email@example.com or 360-943-4241.
Windustry builds collaborations and provides technical support to create an understanding of wind energy opportunities for economic development. Windustry is affiliated with the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, an organization that promotes resilient family farms, rural communities and ecosystems around the world through research and education, science and technology, and advocacy.
Wind Farmers Network
The purpose of the Wind Farmers Network is to bring together a broad range of landowners, farmers and ranchers to exchange their experiences in wind development and educate others who would like to begin farming the wind. If you would like to join the network, please send your contact information and a brief sentence describing your wind energy interests to Windustry or join online at www.windustry.org/about/join.htm. Your information may be shared with other wind farmers within the network only. The network is currently under development.
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Kas Brothers Plant 25-Year Cash Crop This Season: Wind Power
From one perspective, Richard and Roger Kas of Woodstock, Minnesota are typical Midwestern farmers who have grown up farming the family land with their father, William Kas. But this family has something unmistakably unique taking place on their farm. They have seventeen modern wind turbines on their land, generating enough electricity to power 4300 households, and they’re about to put up two more. What is even more unique is that the Kas brothers will own these two new commercial-scale wind turbines. This is the first project of its kind in Minnesota, and possibly in the whole Midwest. Kas Brothers Wind Farm
The wind development came about pretty quick in Southwest Minnesota when the legislature mandated that Northern States Power, now called Xcel Energy, contract 425 MW of wind generated electricity by 2002 in exchange for allowing nuclear waste to be stored outside the Prairie Island Nuclear Plant. Landowners signed leases giving the utility and wind development companies rights to put wind turbines on a portion of their land. The Kas family was part of this group of landowners. But they chose their developer carefully.
Roger thought, “I didn’t want my land tied up without a project going on it. Once you sign something you can’t do what you want. “ He felt that, “if someone comes to me and is ready to put a wind project on my land then let’s sit down and talk.” Otherwise he just felt it was a waste of time to tie his land up for two or three or five years on the option agreements. “I don’t know why someone would want to do that. If you have a good wind resource it’s good to be sure that a project will actually go up.”
The first 17 turbines on their land were developed by Dan Juhl of Danmar Associates, and have been up and running for two years. Roger said, “Dan Juhl was here the first. And we talked, but we had an agreement that if someone else came up with a project first and made us a good offer we would go with them. There were no exclusive agreements.”
While Juhl was working to put his project together he kept the Kas family up to date on the different aspects. The process took a long time. It was 1993 when Juhl installed an anemometer tower to measure the wind on the Kas farm. And it was 1999 when the 17 machines were completely installed and producing power. The machines take six acres out of crop production, on the 320 acres or half section. The life of the machines is expected to be about 25 years and power purchase agreement is 25 years.
If a Wind Developer knocks on your door, it's up to you to know the score...
*Consult an attorney on all contracts
*Consider all development options:
* get together with individual landowners and collectively negotiate wind rights for the broad area
* partner with a wind developer
* own and operate a wind farm
* form a value-added wind cooperative
* partner with the electric cooperative or municipal in your region
Roger stayed with it and paid attention to the how the project came together on his land. He may not have had an equity position in the Juhl project, but he certainly had an interest in its success since his wind easement annual payments are based on a percentage of the gross revenue from each machine. “Farming the wind is not right for everyone. We’re here everyday feeding the cattle and taking care of the farm, and we see the wind turbines as just a few more machines for us to take care of.” In that respect, you need to learn about the machines and take care of them just as you need to know how to take care of your crops and livestock. Roger has worked in construction on and off all his life. While Dan Juhl’s project was being installed on the Kas farm, the turbine manufacturer, Vestas hired Roger, for six months to work on construction and machine maintenance. Roger believes that, “If you want to farm the wind, you should have the knowledge of how it all works.”
Over time their business relationship grew and now the Kas brothers and Juhl have completed the planning and financing for a project which the Kas family will own. Juhl led the way on the key pieces to the Kas project like permitting, power purchase agreement, turbine selection and financing. In part because he had done it before and knew the path. But also, to help forge the way for a different type of project - one that is farmer owned and farmer built. Juhl said “This is possible on a small individual scale, but this is a commercial venture, it’s not a hobby.” There is no project without the power purchase agreement (PPA). This is what the capital financing is based on.
They had to give extra information and special attention to the local bankers to bring them along and get them interested in the wind project. It was all new to the lenders. They have put 20% down and 80% was financed with the PPA as the loan guarantee. The multiple years of wind data and Juhl’s project performance were evidence of for the strength of the wind resource. “Every place is going to be different and you have to work it out.” Says Kas. “Some land is better for raising corn and soybeans; some land is better for wheat and other places for rice. In the same way, some land is better for wind.” The wind resource has to justify the capital investment.
Kas knows he is forging the way with his project and knows that some things will be much easier for the next guy to put up a wind project. He insists that “I am not giving anyone any advice now. I can’t give any advice until mine is up and running.”
Wind Farmers Network
The purpose for the Wind Farmer Network is to bring together a broad range of landowners, farmers and ranchers to exchange their experiences in wind development and to educate others who would like to begin farming the wind. If you would like to join the network, please send your contact information and a brief sentence describing your wind energy interests to Windustry. Your information may be shared with other wind farmers within the network only.
Wind Farmers Network Online
The Windustry website now hosts a section called “Wind Farmer Feedback” in which wind farmers and potential wind farmers from around the country can share their ideas, questions, concerns, and advice. Please post your thoughts at www.windustry.org/farmer.
South Dakota has Wind Power
The Rosebud Sioux Tribe Wind Energy Project broke ground early this spring for a single 750 kW turbine expected to be on line by the end of the summer. The Rosebud Casino and Convention Center will be the main customer of the wind generated electricity. The excess power will be available through a "green tag" program which still has green power available for subscription. Contact: Bob Gough, ICOUP, 303-492-3125, Rpwgough@aol.com
East River Electric Coop offers the Prairie Winds program.
Members can choose to subscribe to wind generated electricity by paying a green premium. Basin Electric Power Cooperative will own the project and market any power that is not subscribed by East River. The project is expected to start producing power this October. The two 1.3MW Nordex turbines will be located two miles north of Chamberlain. Contact: Dan Ziebarth at East River Coop, 605-256-4536 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Amazing News from North Dakota
Congratulations go to North Dakotans for their grassroots support of wind power as three new bills supporting wind energy development were recently signed into law. This is a great comeback after the 1999 session, where there was not enough support for even a wind study. The bills are: 1) Personal Property Tax Reduction - puts wind farm owners on par with ND lignite-fired plants and with neighboring states. 2) Income Tax Incentive - a reduction on ND income tax of 3% per year for 5 years, of the installed cost of a wind farm. 3) Sales and Use Tax Exemption - applies to wind generating equipment installed in ND. Contact: Look at 2001 legislation, www.discoverND.com
Colorado PUC Points to Wind
In March, the Colorado Public Utilities Commission formally directed Xcel Energy to add a wind power project to its resource plan. After public hearings and testimony, the PUC decided that the wind plant was more cost-effective when compared to natural gas-fired generation. Wind energy beat natural gas on economics alone. The PUC ordered Xcel to enter negotiations for a 162 MW wind power plant to be located near Lamar, Colorado. Contact: Colorado PUC website, www.dora.state.co.us/puc/new.htm#dated .
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